The dust of the Sahara desert is heading towards us
Strong winds across the ever-expanding Sahara Desert create a huge 2,000 mile dust cloud with two major pulses. As the earth warms, we are seeing more and more climate impacts that are both awe-inspiring and a bit frightening even to an atmospheric scientist.
What are the implications of this particular event? The most important and agreed-upon outcome will be a reduction in tropical storm activity as the cloud is over the tropical Atlantic. Dust is usually embedded in the very dry desert air and hurricanes don’t like it. In addition, the dust acts as a reflector, preventing the sun from heating the upper layers of the ocean.
Due to our arrival in the Gulf of Mexico between Thursday and Saturday we should see some spectacular sunrises and sunsets and we don’t know how long it will take for the dust to pass. It depends on how quickly the winds whipping the Sahara subside. Sometimes the pulses last for weeks, and sometimes they are just a transient event.
Another possible outcome, which is much less certain, is an increase in the red tide in Florida within a month or so. The dust is loaded with iron, and as the cloud passes over the Gulf of Mexico some of it will seep into the water. The Gulf of Mexico at this time of year is loaded with cyanobacteria. Some scientists believe that certain cyanobacteria in the presence of iron can turn nitrogen into a bioavailable form appreciated by the red tide. We will see!
Bob Bunting is a scientist, entrepreneur and educator and the CEO of the nation’s first CCA Climate Adaptation Center, headquartered in Sarasota. The Climate Adaptation Center is an expert resource to educate government, academia, and the private sector so they can create the adaptation strategies and actions needed to protect the Florida way of life and foster the climate economy. as broader global solutions evolve to address the climate problem. Contact Bob at [email protected] for more information.